The Costa Concordia incident is perhaps the worst distaster at sea that I have personally seen where shipboard safety was blatantly ignored. I could talk (and write) for hours about the comprehensive safety programs my preferred cruise lines have in place; (Princess, Royal Caribbean, Celebrity, Holland America to name a few). Surprisingly, the cruise industry has been strangely silent on commenting on what happened onboard the fated voyage...in my opinion (based on news, both public and industry wide), I feel the Captain is largely at fault here....however, the fact that a safety drill had not taken place on the first day of the voyage raised huge alarm bells. I personally have NEVER been on a cruise (and I've been on well over 100) where we didn't have our lifeboat drill within a few hours of embarkation, or even within hours of sailing! I was floored when I heard that they weren't scheduled for their lifeboat drill until THE NEXT DAY! Are you kidding me??? And that chaos reigned because the staff didn't know what to do, or where to go!
My experience with the above mentioned cruise lines is that each and every staff member has a very specific job and location to go to, and every contingency has been covered, including if the starboard lifeboats are put out of commission. I was appalled to hear from passenger accounts that lifeboats sat in their docket up on deck because the engineers driving the lifeboats were waiting to hear from the officers that it was 'OK to proceed,' but then only to learn from that all the officers HAD ABANDONED SHIP! So, there was NO ONE on board to give the OK to lower the lifeboats and save the passengers! That would have been unheard of on the cruise lines I prefer to sell! What ever happened to the 'Captain goes down with the ship?' Who of you was appalled to listen to the audio of the Italian coastguard arguing with the Captain to 'go back to your ship and save your passengers,' only to hear him reply that 'it's dark!' and argue back for over half an hour!
As a cruise fanatic, I find I can't get enough of the coverage of passenger accounts, most especially video, of what happened onboard. Here's a video taken well after the accident when the lights were still out...
In it you can clearly hear them say that the Captain informs us 'it's just an electrical problem and everything is well under control!' ARE YOU KIDDING ME? His ship is going down, and everything is under control?! Had he taken decisive action, many more lives might have been saved. He could have evacuated the ship in an orderly environment where everyone is accounted for, but instead, he chose to minimize things so that he wouldn't look bad. I think I will be advising all my clients to bring flashlights on their cruises...you never know when you will need them! As a matter of fact, I think I will PROVIDE flashlights for them to take! LOL!
I know that Princess has a system in place where they are able to ascertain within 15 minutes of the emergency signal being sounded where each and every passenger is; a team of staff members has a systematic approach to inspecting the public areas and staterooms to make sure no one is injured or left behind. I think Costa could have benefited from this lesson their fellow cruise line has in place. If anything, hopefully this disaster will mobilize every cruise line to implement the best possible safety regimen that is out there. I know I will pay more attention to the life boat drill, even though I've been to over 110 of them! Won't you?
In the meantime, this report came out today in a travel agent trade article about how slowly the cruise industry is responding to how Costa has handled things. Could it be because Carnival Corporation owns all the other cruise lines besides Costa? (Princess, Carnival, Holland America, Seabourn, and P & O).